It’s hard to imagine a rider preparing to kick off the 2013 winter testing campaign in Malaysia tomorrow (Tuesday) with more nervous excitement and anticipation than Texan Ben Spies.
The 2009 World Superbike champion is not only keen to understand the tough task he faces to make Ducati’s Desmosedici competitive when he makes his debut on the GP13.
But he is also curious to assess the strength and endurance in his right shoulder after a long recovery from surgery in late October.
The former factory Yamaha rider has not been in action since he badly damaged his right shoulder in a crash during a rain-lashed Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang on October 21.
Major surgery meant he missed the final two races of 2012 in Phillip Island and Valencia and two opportunities to test the Ducati in Spain in November.
Spies exclusively told MCN, the Ignite Pramac Ducati rider said: “The shoulder was definitely a big and complicated surgery and it was a lot worse than I ever expected it to be.
"In the end though it will make my shoulder stronger and better than the other one.
"I can already feel the benefits of it but it is one where the recovery process was extremely long just because they had to reinforce some stuff in my shoulder to make sure it was fully healed before I started lifting weights or training.
"That took a lot longer than I wanted but originally they said I was going to be in a sling for 12 weeks.
"It was more or less five or six but then another three weeks of being extremely careful. I lost an extreme amount of muscle on my back, shoulder and forearm and hand strength just because I couldn’t use it at all.
"I would say the injury itself has healed and I am about 95% on range of motion, which is really good compared to where I was one month ago.
"But strength is something I have to work on. The riding strength you can only get by riding and I’ve not been able to ride anything like riding a dirt bike since October.”
Spies doubts his shoulder will be at 100% during this week’s three-day test in Sepang but he is hoping to be strong enough to get a good understanding of Ducati’s unruly Desmosedici.
He added: “I’m not going to lie to you but I don’t think I am going to be 100%. But we will be good enough to do what we need to do and go fast enough to actually do some proper testing and learn the bike, even though I wouldn’t have ridden for three or months.
"For me I actually think it is a good way to learn the team and the bike and taking it step by step and not being in a rush. I am not 100% to go fast anyway so there is no sense in taking any big risks and worrying about the lap times at the end of the day.
"I’ll have my lap timer completely off and I’ll just go decently quick to get a setting where I can look at some development parts. The second Malaysia test I will be 100% but I got to build endurance back as well as strength in the shoulder.
"It is one thing getting it strong but repetitive use and repetitive braking it is going to wear it out and get tired. It is not ideal for the first test but the shoulder is healed perfectly on schedule.
"This first test though will just be about learning the bike and the team and learning to have fun again.”